Driving Away: Leaving the Kattaikkuttu Sangam

17.5.1 Moleskin_Kuttu2HrAbhi4smShuffling embraces, final words of encouragement, and promises. Then the door opens and closes. A vacuum of silence and pressure wraps around the body as it does the soul. Leaving after a life-defining experience holds a special bittersweet charm that has the power to evoke memories in montage in the midst of departure. Images of faces and moments pass by on the landscape.

As my taxi drifted away on the crunching gravel, I looked out to the passing trees with a sense of nostalgia and wonderment that nine-months have passed. In those nine-months, I was supported by mentors Hanne M. de Bruin and P. Rajagopal, as well as the staff who en- sured my comfort, safety, and sense of inclusiveness every day. I recalled the dozens of students, each with their own particular style and interest. Each a blessing and teacher to show that life is unique, expansive, and remarkable in so many ways. Each day at the school was an opportunity to observe, learn, and grow. There are regrets, sure, of not taking advantage of every second, but those are spotlights of priorities that can be change. We own our faults as much as our successes.

Yet, there are a well-full of blissful moments of conversations with Duraisamy, Tamila, Dillibabu, and Radha; long nights of watching Kuttu and being humbled by the students; afternoons of volleyball; art in the evenings; and long motorcycle rides. These moments will grow with distance and inevitably, I’ll re-count in conversations, “In India…” and insert a memory or something I learned.

Someday, I hope to return, but I’ll stay connected and appreciative of the people who will continue to grow in my heart.

17.5.1 Moleskin_Kuttu2HrAbhi1sm

Cal is eager to confront challenges and collaborate with the AIF team and individuals at his project site to overcome them. He believes that through this fellowship, he would be able to build the skills and leadership abilities that he can draw upon in a life of national and international civic engagements. Prior to AIF, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer (Mongolia 2013-15) in the Community and Youth Development sector, which provided him experience living in a rural community in an international context. He also has a BA and MA degrees, both in International Development. Cal is excited for the opportunity towards learning about another culture and experience the variety of foods, dances, arts, and lifestyles.

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